firmament, God’s division between cosmic waters on the second day of creation (Gen. 1:6-8), forming the sky. One must here imagine a flat earth and a domed expanse of heavens holding back celestial waters from terrestrial. The Hebrew term raqia‘ suggests a thin sheet of beaten metal (cf. Exod. 39:3; Num. 17:3; Jer. 10:9; also Job 37:18). Similar metaphors for sky are found in Homer and Pindar. Job 26:13 depicts God’s breath as the force that calmed (or ‘spread,’ ‘smoothed’ or ‘carpeted’) the heavens. Luminaries were set in the firmament on the fourth day of creation (Gen. 1:14-19). Rains were believed to fall through sluices or windows in its surface (cf. Gen. 7:11). During the Flood, the upper waters joined with the waters of the primordial deep (Heb. tehom). In more pacific contexts, the firmament, or its pattern of luminaries, is said to declare the praises of God (Ps. 19:1; cf. 150:1). In Ezekiel’s ‘chariot’ vision, a crystal firmament supports the divine throne (Ezek. 1:22, 25, 26), just as something resembling a pavement of lapis lazuli is said to lie at the feet of Yahweh’s throne in Exod. 24:10. Dan. 12:3 alludes to the ‘radiance’ (Heb. zohar) of the firmament. Rabbinic sources regarded the firmament as the chief source of light for heavenly denizens. See also Creation; Genesis. J.W.R.
J.W.R. Joel W. Rosenberg, Ph.D.; Associate Professor, Hebrew Literature and Judaic Studies; Tufts University; Medford, Massachusetts
Achtemeier, P. J., Harper & Row, P., & Society of Biblical Literature. (1985). Harper's Bible dictionary. Includes index. (1st ed.). San Francisco: Harper & Row.